Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Effect of Magnet Schools and Desegregation Districts on AP Enrollment, Test-taking, and Performance of Minority Students
by Freeburger, Andrew, Ph.D., Notre Dame of Maryland University, 2018, 225; 10829745
Abstract (Summary)

In recent years, magnets schools have abandoned a goal of integrating student populations for goals of innovating education. The goal of magnet schools has become the primary filter for determining how effective the school will be at integrating the student population. However, some research shows that even magnet schools that superficially hail a diverse population can still be segregated by race, socioeconomic status, and ability, especially in the higher-level classes. This ‘within-school’ segregation has been credited to academic tracking, or the process of placing at-risk and minority students in academic classes that do not filter into the most successful course. This is of particular concern because simply enrolling in higher-level classes, like Advanced Placement (AP) courses, increases the likelihood of enrolling in, and graduating from, college.

The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of the effects of integrated public schools on the achievement gap by examining how magnet schools, desegregation districts, and magnet schools in desegregation districts are providing minority students access to and success in AP classes.

The 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), a biennial survey of self-reported data, was used to analyze all high schools (grades 9-12) in the country that offer AP courses (n=12,406). Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) was applied to control for several characteristics of the school and the desegregation status of the school district. The effect of magnet schools and desegregation districts on AP enrollment, AP test-taking, and AP performance was analyzed for all student demographics. Each model was run for each variable for all high schools, then, the total population was divided into five subcategories based on school-wide enrollment percentage of at-risk students.

An analysis of the data found evidence of within-school segregation, especially in schools with low and integrated minority enrollment, and very little evidence that desegregation districts or magnet schools in desegregation districts close the gap between minority AP enrollment, test-taking, and performance and the minority school enrollment. Furthermore, only Asian and Other AP enrollment, test-taking, and test performance was positively affected by an integrated school enrollment. Black, Hispanic, and White, non-Hispanic AP enrollment, test-taking, and performance were positively affected when the school enrollment was more segregated and homogenous to the respective demographic group. This study also found that integrating an AP program shows evidence of negatively affecting the AP test-taking and AP performance of minority students while increasing the minority enrollment had a positive effect on minority AP test-taking and AP performance. There was no evidence of the widely accepted belief that integration improves the academic performance of minority students when evaluated by AP programs.

As a result, this study suggests that there may be some bias—either perceived by the student or given by classmates and teachers—that makes it less likely for minority students to take the AP exam and perform better on the exam when the AP program is integrated. This study provides enough evidence to warrant the need for more specific policies evaluating the integration of schools before determining desegregation compliance.

While there are a few instances of magnet schools, desegregation districts, and/or magnet schools in desegregation districts improving the AP enrollment, test-taking, and test performance of minority students, there is not enough evidence to prove that these school- and district-level characteristics prevent within-school segregation. In fact, there is more evidence to suggest that they are contributing to the problem.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Thrift, Gary
Commitee: Doherty, Kathryn, Fenster, Mark
School: Notre Dame of Maryland University
Department: Department of Education
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 80/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational evaluation, Educational leadership
Keywords: Advanced placement, Desegregation districts, Integration, Magnet schools, Within-school segregation
Publication Number: 10829745
ISBN: 978-0-438-51538-3
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